In the name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful
Do they believe in alleged partners (of God) who ordain for them things which God has not sanctioned? Were it not for God’s decree on the final judgment, all would have been decided between them. Painful suffering awaits the wrongdoers. You will see the wrongdoers full of fear on account of what they have done, which is bound to fall back on them. And you will see those who believe and do righteous deeds in the flowering meadows of the gardens of paradise. They will have whatever they wish from their Lord. This is indeed the supreme bounty. It is of this [bounty] that God gives good news to His servants who believe and do righteous deeds. Say: “No reward do I ask of you for this. It is only an act of affection due to kin.” Whoever does good, We shall increase it for him. God is most forgiving, most appreciative. (Consultation, Al-Shura: 42: 21-23)
The surah earlier stated that what God has legislated for the Muslim community is the same as He had enjoined on Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus. In other words, all this is embodied in what God revealed to Muhammad (peace be upon him). At this point, the surah employs a rhetorical question addressing the unbelievers’ beliefs and practices: essentially, these are contrary to what God has ordained in His messages, so who ordained the same for the unbelievers, without God’s sanction?
“Do they believe in alleged partners [of God] who ordain for them things which God has not sanctioned?” None of God’s creatures may legislate anything that is at variance with what He legislates. It is God alone who legislates for all His creation. It is He who has created the universe and conducts its affairs through natural laws He has set in operation. Human life is merely a small gear in the great cog of the universe. Therefore, its law should be consistent with the laws governing the universe and its operation. This can only be achieved when the law of human life is enacted by the One who has full knowledge of universal law. No one other than God has such knowledge. Hence, no one can be entrusted with the task of legislating for human life.
Although the logic of this fact is abundantly clear, still there are many who dispute it or who are not convinced of its truth. They dare to enact laws and legislation that are at variance with God’s law, claiming that they are only choosing what is good for their peoples, ensuring that their laws fit their specific circumstances. In doing so, they suggest that they know better than God and are wiser than Him. The only other justification they put forward is that they believe in some beings whom they allege to be God’s partners, and that it is these who enact laws for them that are not sanctioned by God. There can be no greater folly than such impudence.
God has enacted for mankind laws that He knows to be in harmony with their nature on the one hand and with the nature of the universe they live in on the other. Thus, His law ensures the maximum cooperation and harmony among mankind as also with universal powers. In all this, He has put in place basic principles. He has left it for people to enact legislation concerning the details that suit their needs according to their level of development, provided that such legislation remains within the framework of the principles He has laid down. Should people differ over something in this regard, they should refer the matter to God and the balance He has established through these principles. People must make sure that every detailed law they enact, fits with this balance. In this way, the source of legislation remains one and the ultimate word remains God’s. He is indeed the best of all judges. Anything that differs with this, constitutes deviation from God’s law and the religion He ordained for Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them all).
“Were it not for God’s decree on the final judgment, all would have been decided between them.” God has made His decree to defer judgment to the final day. Had he not decreed such deferment, He would have made His judgment now, punishing those who deviate from His law. However, He postpones this to the Day of Judgment when “painful suffering awaits the wrongdoers.” Such suffering is in requital for their wrongdoing. Can there be anything more erroneous than choosing man-made laws in preference to God’s law?
Those wrongdoers are shown as they will be on the Day of Judgment, afraid of what will happen to them. During their lives on earth, however, they entertained no such fear. On the contrary, they ridiculed the reckoning and asked for it to be hastened: “You will see the wrongdoers full of fear on account of what they have done, which is bound to fall back on them.” In the Arabic original, they are described as ‘full of fear for what they have done’, as if their deeds are some fearful beast. Yet they performed these deeds with their own hands, enjoying their actions. Still, when they face these same deeds, they are full of fear, realizing that they are ‘bound to fall back on them,’ as though the deeds themselves are transformed into a punishment they cannot avoid.
Conversely, we see the believers who used to be in awe of what would happen on that day now feeling safe, reassured, enjoying what God grants them: “And you will see those who believe and do righteous deeds in the flowering meadows of the gardens of paradise. They will have whatever they wish from their Lord. This is indeed the supreme bounty. It is of this (bounty) that God gives good news to His servants who believe and do righteous deeds.” The whole image is one of bliss and happiness. Those believers are ‘in the flowering meadows of the gardens of paradise’, where they will have ‘whatever they wish from their Lord.’ There is no limit to His bounty, which is indeed supreme. This is, then, the good news that God gives to His righteous servants. It is good news that is shown to be ready, immediate, confirming the earlier promise of good things to come. n